Is now a good time to plan a trip to the beach?

Jul 28, 2020

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The most exotic destination you visited in the last few months may have been the neighborhood park, or your balcony, backyard or fire escape. Maybe you’re really lucky and have access to a nice, deep soaking tub or even a pool.

But at this point in the summer, you may be ready to venture out again — even if only for a socially distanced nearcation. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, your original summer vacation plans likely all washed down the drain, and a popular back-up plan is heading to the beach. Maybe this year it will be a local stretch of sand instead of a far-flung island getaway, but it’s still a beach all the same.

So, given all the risks and rewards — is now a good time to plan a trip to the beach?

(Photo by Shelby Soblick for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Shelby Soblick for The Points Guy)

Related: Should I travel? Advice for the coronavirus outbreak

Should you go to the beach now?

In most parts of the U.S., shelter-in-place orders have expired. If you aren’t under quarantine you can theoretically head to the beach. There are exceptions if you’re hoping to travel out of state, of course, as there are many interstate travel restrictions, but if you can get to a beach (or even a lake with a lovely shoreline), you’re likely allowed to do so.

Since a beach is always outside, and generally breezy, experts typically don’t consider this an especially high-risk destination. Since masks aren’t worn on most beaches (though check your local regulations), however, social distancing is extremely important and very relevant to the overall risk level.

(Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

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Avoid crowded beaches

Just as national parks and surrounding towns have become very popular and, as a result, often over-crowded destinations, so have many beaches.

Overcrowding is what caused some beaches to close earlier this spring, and that pattern could repeat if visitation gets out of hand, especially in locations experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases.

We’ve also seen some beaches close down to prevent overcrowding. During the Fourth of July holiday, for example, multiple public beaches across Texas were closed. Assuming the coronavirus will still be a concern come Labor Day, we won’t be surprised to see beaches closed in some destinations.

But, even if the beach is open, it may not be the safe, relaxing getaway you were hoping for if it’s slammed with visitors.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 19: Large crowds visit the beach at Coney Island in Brooklyn on July 19, 2020 in New York City. Much of the East Coast is experiencing usually warm weather with high's in the 90's and a heat index that makes it feel over 100 degrees. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Large crowds visit the beach at Coney Island in Brooklyn on July 19, 2020, in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Plan ahead

Research whether you’ll need an advance reservation to visit your beach of choice. Sometimes, it isn’t the beach itself that will require a reservation, but instead the nearby parking lots. If the beach in a state park, it’s more likely you’ll need to make a reservation in advance. Even natural swimming holes are requiring reservations in some locations.

Screenshot from New Hampshire State Parks

If there’s an easily accessible and relatively empty beach near you, just scan for potential crowds before setting up your beach towels and chairs. Just travel light so you can be ready to pack up quickly if the beach becomes dangerously busy.

While I’m sure there are exceptions, most public bathrooms probably won’t live up to any COVID-19 cleaning standards. You may also find that other supporting concessions and vendors (think: beachfront restaurants, visitor centers) have not reopened, so come to the beach prepared to be fully self-sufficient — or keep the visit short enough that you don’t need any additional facilities.

Related: How to book the perfect beach house rental

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

A day spent outside at the beach can be a great cure for the quarantine blues if you plan in advance, know the rules for your area, make any necessary reservations and have a plan if the beach gets too crowded for comfort.

Featured image by Per Breiehagen/ Getty Images

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